In its wonderfully diverse landscape, America is pretty much unrivalled.
There are many great southern towns as well.
There are few other countries in which you can see mountains, deserts, turquoise beaches, lush forests, glaciers and still be close to civilisation and a thriving cultural scene.
Home to several National Parks, from the deserts of Nevada to the lush volcanic Yellowstone, magnificent Great Lakes and from iconic cities such as the cool and cosmopolitan New York (New York City’s Central Park) to the beating heart of Las Vegas, America is a land of discovery and adventure.
Friendly people, staggering scenery, and nominal landmarks are just some of the things you are guaranteed to discover when travelling in the US of A.
Many people consider a trip to America to be the trip of a lifetime, and getting everything you want to see into your itinerary can take weeks. Months, even. We know!
Whether you choose to hire a car and drive Route ’66, hitchhike à la Holly from Lou Reed’s ‘Wild Side’, or join an organised tour such as those created by Grand American Adventures, you can be sure that as well as some of the more obvious choices, you will encounter some overlooked destinations.
Overlooked destinations in America
OK, this is a whole state, and OK, it is not entirely overlooked.
Even the Simpsons have been there, but Alaska is sometimes relegated to ‘other’ because of its location.
It is the largest and most sparsely populated of US states with a huge diversity, both culturally and in its landscape.
Known for its salmon fishing, Alaska and water sports are pretty synonymous:
kayaking, spearfishing and white water rafting to name a few.
Alaska is great for whale watching in the right season, as well as canoeing in some of the clearest glacier waters.
Beautiful wilderness and of course the fun husky rides are some of the key features of trips to Alaska, and since it is so vast and diverse, we recommend taking a couple of weeks to really acclimatise and discover everything this stunning scenery has to offer.
Speeding past miles of glacier on a dog sled is sure to create a lifelong memory of this unique and majestic state.
Like Alaska, Hawaii is sometimes a forgotten part of the US, and it has so much more to offer than the usual spots of Honolulu and Waikiki. At Pahoa lies the world’s most active volcano.
A curtain of fire belches from the belly of the earth, which can be viewed at the bottom of the volcano, in its skirts.
This is an adventure that requires some stamina, and is not for the faint hearted.
It’ll get hot, windy and arduous at times, but seeing something so unique is a once in a lifetime opportunity on a Hawaii vacation.
Portland – underground smuggler’s tunnels
Known as Shanghai Tunnels, this series of underground networks in Portland, Oregon are just one of its many attractions as an offbeat, alternative place to visit.
Interconnected tunnels lying underneath the city are also all connected to the docks, meaning that ship’s cargo could be protected from savage weather.
However, there was a grimy underbelly that operated in the tunnels back in the 1840s – until around 1941, during World War II.
The term ‘Shanghai’ was used to describe a process by which men were captured and sold to crew on boats.
Often, the techniques used were underhand, such as drugging them with opium or waiting until they were inebriated and could be dragged through the underground tunnels to the ship’s captain.
Women were advised not to walk alone in these areas too, where the kidnapping of several daughters was documented.
Accessible by foot, there are tours of the tunnels at weekends.
Rush, Ghost Town, Arkansas
Historically a town that flourished as zinc mining capital, Rush is a ghost town that shows the decline of mining in Arkansas.
Officially declared a ghost town in the seventies, it has become a part of the Buffalo River National Park, and as such, the buildings and mines are maintained by the Park Service.
However, the mines could still be dangerous and visitors are not permitted to enter them.
You can, however trek a trail around them and visit the surrounding houses, which are all eerily empty.
Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska
If the original Stonehenge in England isn’t curious enough, then this replica made by artist Jim Reinders sure is.
Fascinated by the mystery of Stonehenge, Reinders used a series of cars to recreate the structure in metal.
First erected in 1982, the sculpture has attracted people to an otherwise overlooked area of the great plains.
Anyone can visit the site any time of day, although the imposing silhouettes at dusk make for interesting photography.
Nearby, there is also a cute frontier town, which depicts life in Nebraska some 150 years ago, mixing the modern with history.
Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota
An aquatic mystery and beautiful waterfall lies within Judge Magney State Park in Minnesota.
Viewed from the top, it appears like any natural waterfall, and yet half of the water cascades 50 feet down into the Brule River, to end up forming part of Lake Superior.
However, the mysterious part is what happens to the other half, which falls into a sort of ‘cauldron’ basin and ultimately disappears.
People have tried putting dye into the potholes to track where the water goes, but its ultimate destination has never been discovered, earning it the name Devil’s Kettle.
Apostle Island Sea Caves, Wisconsin
In summertime, this incredible network of underground caverns can be explored by foot, underneath Lake Superior.
But what happens in winter when they become temples of ice is truly unforgettable.
When the lake freezes over, its caves underneath also freeze, forming amazing icicles along the cave walls.
A trek through the ice caves can be arranges during the winter months, although it is best to check with the Apostle Island Park Service whether it has been cold enough for the lake to freeze over sufficiently.
Similar to the concept of cherry blossoms in Japan, the ice caves are revered for their fleeting appearance, and need to be caught at just the right time.
Your first inclination is obvious: “why do I need to worry about bringing food back from Europe?
It’s not like I’m visiting any third-world countries it’ll be fine!”
Indeed, that’s what many Americans think.
Europe To America
The reality is a little more complicated than judging the safety of food importation based on the GDP of the country of origin.
In 2007 alone U.S. customs officials seized 4,300 items from airline passengers and other visitors unaware of current regulations regarding the bringing of certain plant and animal products across the border.
Many of those seized items were European in origin, no doubt ranging in expense from a candy apple to a wheel of Brie.
It’s important to know what you can bring back BEFORE you buy it.
The vacation in France or time spent in Italy almost always comes with the assumption that a bottle of wine can be brought back.
Wine, along with most liquor, is generally acceptable to bring back without incident, though travelers are limited to one liter each.
In general baked and processed goods are safe to bring back that includes most packaged chocolates and snack foods.
Jarred items, things that are pickled or preserved or overall lack the environment for dangerous pathogens to breed in are for the most part acceptable.
The government concerns itself primarily with making sure that dietary staples such as cheese, meat, and potatoes are not grown or processed in conditions that are drastically different than those under U.S. standards.
The higher the risk a product has for contamination IE the rawness or lack of proper packaging, the more likely officials are going to reject it.
That means most moist cheeses, cured meats, and the majority of raw produce.
In Europe these items can be tantalizing gifts for those back at home.
They can also be incredibly expensive.
You certainly want to make sure that you don’t purchase $100.00 worth of Hungarian salami only to be forced to throw it away when you enter customs.
It’s worth noting that you should never attempt to deceive customs officials. The penalties can fines as high as $10,000 depending on what you tried to sneak into the country.
When in doubt, consider the following: Before you depart, consult the USDA website on the issue.
Once you are in Europe, revisit the guidelines the government makes available to you before making a purchase.
Upon your return, if you suspect you may have brought back something that is illegal, make sure you make customs officials aware of the situation.
If you’ve set aside a fund for food to bring back, do the right research – it’ll save you money when you’re traveling and heartbreak when you return – enjoy Europe! 😉
Going Retro In America, Retro Things To Do
While you can’t really travel back in time, there is nothing stopping you from pretending that you are, and in America, getting a taste of the old days is actually easier than you think.
These days, retro is “in”, and cafes, shops and cinemas are popping up all over the world.
Here are a few of Americas gems that I would not want to miss on a visit to the States.
Retro Drive-In Theaters
Getting cozy in a retro drive-in theater watching some old school movies has to be among the best ways to travel back in time to the good old 50’s.
Bengies Drive-In Theater in Baltimore, opened on June 6 in 1956 – and is still operating – with triple features on Fridays and Saturdays, vintage trailers and FM or AM radio car speakers, this place gives you the true original drive-in movie theater experience.
Another old-school drive-in theater is The Wellfleet Drive-In Theater in Wellfleet, MA – the theater opened in 1957, and is still today a favorite spot for those mild summer evenings.
When it comes to dining in retro style, there are plenty of options all over the country.
With red leather booths, milkshakes, burgers and juke boxes – places like Pann’s restaurant on La Tijera Blvd in L.A, are the perfect classic diners for retro lovers.
Many people swear by this place, and whenever they return for holidays to California and visit Los Angeles, this is where they head first.
If you’ve wanted to know what it would’ve been like to eat at a diner in the 1950s, Pann’s is the place to find out.
They’ve been in the business since 1958, and aside from the staff, nothing else seems to have changed…
Dress up in your best and most colorful 80’s outfits, sing at the top of your lungs to Journey and other 80’s classics, and work those gluts for all you’re worth under the spinning disco balls at White Rock Skate Center in Dallas.
When you’re exhausted, grab a Hokey Pokey from the snack bar and rest while checking out the photos of the place taken in the early 70’s.
Historical Amusement Parks
The Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz has been a popular place for over 100 years, and today this classic park still thriving.
Take a ride on the carousel from 1911, or the Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster that is also a historical landmark, built in 1924. On the highest point of the ride you get an amazing view over the boardwalk.
Another highlight of the parks attractions is the free entertainment shows, oh, and the admission to the boardwalk itself is also free.
These are just four out of hundreds of things to do and places to visit on holidays to America in retro-style – the best way to top this off would be to rent an old-school convertible for the trip!
Where are your favorite retro places in USA?
Quick Travel Guide To California
Looking at California on a map doesn’t really do it justice – it’s difficult to get an idea just how vast and diverse the state is.
Visitors to California come from across the world for a chance to cruise down the Big Sur coastline, stroll the San Francisco waterfront or discover the breathtaking Yosemite National Park.
Most USA holidays have a reputation for size, scale and adventure, but there’s such a staggering amount to see and do in California, that planning exactly how you’ll spend your time can be a tough proposition.
To make it easier for you to plan a trip to California, here is a quick introduction to the different parts of the state and what they have to offer…
In the southern city of San Diego, you’ll find shops, gardens and a bustling metropolitan atmosphere.
The city is close to the border, so don’t be surprised to get a taste of Mexico and central America as you take in the sights!
Known for its near-perfect climate and impressive beaches, it’s also a great destination for all sorts of water activities, from surfing to whale watching to scuba diving.
The famous SeaWorld theme park is also located in San Diego.
You can choose to stay in the action of San Diego’s cosmopolitan city, but few things beat a San Diego vacation rental right by the beach, watching the sun set over the ocean from your balcony.
Further inland, Palm Springs is a desert oasis and a resort town that has hosted its fair share of Hollywood stars over the years.
You’ll you have the chance to relax in spas and restaurants, or explore spectacular nearby canyons and mountains.
Yosemite National Park
You’ll find opportunities for adventures and exploration all across California – nowhere more so than in Yosemite National Park.
Gigantic and sprawling, you could spend weeks walking the trails of the park, home to crystal lakes, snow-capped mountains and miles of dense pine forest.
Tours take visitors on a dramatic journey through Yosemite’s unspoilt natural beauty – in what promises to be an unforgettable portion of your Californian experience.
From the natural splendour of Yosemite, California cities offer a superb urban contrast.
San Francisco teems with culture and a thriving art and music scene set against famous landmarks like Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Embarcadero.
Further south, Los Angeles is a spectacular Metropolis stretching as far as the eye can see: from the golden Hollywood Hills, to the colourful piers of Santa Monica and Venice beach.
It’s hard to get bored in L.A – you’ll be able to take trips around Hollywood studios and theme parks, before wining and dining in one of the most glamorous urban environments in the world.
These are just a few of many amazing places in California, I hope I’ve inspired you to go there and see it for yourselves!
Scenery, Culture and History You Can Only Find in Oklahoma
With 39 Native American Indian tribes in Oklahoma, the heritage continues to be rich in Native American customs.
With many true western experiences such as rodeos, country music, historical landmarks and national parks, Oklahoma is a state with a history you’ll not want to miss.
Check out the top 5 activities that will provide the best experience of Native American Culture:
Cherokee Tribal Villages
Join in the tribe’s cultural dances, powwows, parades and the rich cultural customs of everyday life in a Cherokee village.
Sequoyah’s Cabin, Sallisaw
Sallisaw was a Cherokee silversmith who developed his tribes native written language.
Living in a small one room log cabin east of Sallisaw, the cabin is a historic landmark.
Sallisaw worked tirelessly on this amazing task- writing the Cherokee’s alphabet while residing in the cabin that was built in 1829.
Rodeos Reign in Oklahoma
The 101 Wild West Rodeo in Ponca City is believed to be the birthplace of the rodeo in Oklahoma.
The Miller Brothers Ranch is where bronco riding and roping calves and horses came into existence and is still enjoyed by many who love the sport.
There are several rodeos throughout the state of Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma City, the International Finals Rodeo Competition is held at the State Fair Grounds. Cowboys compete in the U.S. Team Roping Competition events held throughout the year.
The World’s Largest Calf Frying Festival is also held in Vinta, Oklahoma.
Country Music, Bluegrass Music in Nowata
Nowata, Oklahoma is home to musical entertainment for the whole family.
Known for its Grand Ole Opry style music, the Nowata Country Jubilee takes to heart, not only its love for many types of music, but welcomes guests from near and far with live entertainment and great food.
Nowata got its name from a Lenape tribesman who gave it its name that means “friendly.”
In Oklahoma there are more than 200 lakes.
Their beauty is astounding and many visit Oklahoma purely to enjoy the many water activities such as fishing, canoeing, sailing, scuba diving and swimming.
Lake Arbuckles, located in Chickasaw Country, is situated in the states oldest national park.
It is known as the best lake for bass fishing and ranks number one for water sports.
Enjoy camping, rafting, fishing, scuba diving and more in this lovely scenic park on Lake Arbuckles.
Grand Teton National park receives around 2.7 million visitors each summer; and for those who aren’t traveling there this year, the parks are likely on a life bucket list.
Grab your camera and don’t miss out on any of these experiences of the Grand Tetons.
Enjoy the Grand Teton National Park Mountains
It’s all about the mountains in Grand Teton National Park.
Twelve snow-capped peaks surround the park’s namesake and act as a stunning backdrop for the entire region.
Hardcore climbers scramble up icy moraine for an epic summit view, and hikers enjoy well-maintained trails that wind through fields of sagebrush and dense evergreen forests.
Four visitor centers and six campgrounds operate during the summer; these are excellent starting points for exploring the area.
Take a Scenic Drive
The park is immense, and the best way to see it all is to take a scenic drive.
TravelStorysGPS is a free resource that allows people to listen to GPS-enabled audio tours of the local history, ecology, and geology as they drive through the park.
Teton Park Road follows the base of the range, while the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive has spectacular views of the peaks from across the lake.
Signal Mountain Summit Road provides valley views and stunning panoramas of the mountains.
Occasional bison crossings hold up traffic — Grand Teton National Park is not as busy as Yellowstone, so visitors have a better chance of glimpsing wildlife.
Enjoy the Water
Floating the Snake River is another popular way to see the sights, and more adventurous paddlers can tackle class III whitewater.
You can also enjoy the water on a stand up paddle board.
Horseback riding, mountain biking and even aerial tours provide unique perspectives on the park’s natural wonders.
Roam the streets like a Cowboy
Perched at the edge of the wilderness, Jackson Hole may seem like a relic of a bygone era: Cowboys at heart will love its daily, old-fashioned, town square shootout.
But behind this gruff wild western facade is a truly modern town.
Jackson Hole offers world-class dining and entertainment.
The Grand Teton Music Festival features a series of concerts performed by internationally renowned musicians. Each winter, skiers flock to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for its challenging runs and reliable powder.”
Shops in town sell everything from souvenirs to snowboards, and outfitters organize trekking tours and provide all the necessary equipment for outdoor adventuring.
There’s no better way to get outdoors than to visit Grand Teton National Park.